Take My Summer Goals Challenge

 

Kylie’s Summer Goals                       My Summer Goals

 

I have been hearing a lot of self-loathing amongst the mommy population lately and I am not liking it. Not liking it one bit. It’s also sad that every single woman can relate to feeling bad about herself at a time, appearance wise—words like frumpy, fat, old, and ugly come to mind. We can all relate, because we have all felt less than.

Yesterday I came across something that saddened me. By the way, Kylie Jenner, I am not blaming you—I am all about woman supporting each other and damn no one with eyes can deny you look hot in that picture (girl knows how to rock a bikini!), but here is my problem with it. I am cold-clocking you hard with my eyes society. It’s that little caption underneath that sexy photo that says “summer goals.” For people that don’t keep up with the Kardashians (pun intended) like me, Kylie just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl Stormi.

I gave birth to a baby girl in September and I am here to counter these “summer goals” with my own and challenge Kylie and moms like her to think outside of their postpartum bods. Being in that place twice, I can say this new body will be the best body Kylie will have yet. This body will feed her baby—nourish her into the thriving sweet girl she will become right before her eyes. This body will be so strong—it will pick up her growing daughter with ease.  The one thing I can guarantee, is that this body, this new body, has never been loved more than she is starting to experience.

It’s time for all new moms to look beyond their bodies for “summer goals.” Happiness and beauty truly come from within. Beauty comes from your mind and creativity.  It comes from how kind you are to others. Kindness toward yourself is something you would want your children to emulate. So please, be kind to yourself. Let’s change how our kids will feel once they have the most wonderful gift in the world, a baby boy or girl.

This summer my goals will be (see picture above):

  • More living in the moment
  • More grandparent time
  • More time appreciating the outdoors
  • More fun play spaces to discover
  • More baby kisses and snuggles
  • Less time getting beaten by a crazy toddler
  • Less morning milk (solve my hyper-lactation problem)
  • More family time
  • More time getting genuine laughs and smiles

So Kylie, when you rock that bikini this summer (and you will), even if you don’t lose a pound, I am telling you it is going to be your favorite body yet because your daughter is going to love it–and you are going to appreciate all that it does–imperfections and all.

What will your “summer goals” collage look like?

Five Lessons from Five Years in Eating Disorder Recovery

December third is a big day for me. It marks my five-year anniversary of being in recovery from ED. What that means is that five years ago to the day, December 3, 2012, at five in the morning I texted my mom, “I need help.” A couple of hours later I had the seizure that brought me to my rock bottom. I’d thought I could feel my body breaking down, and I was right. I had known something bad was going to happen, and it did. Like I had a crystal ball, I’d predicted it and I was lucky I’d asked for help and wasn’t alone. Ever since that day I have committed to recovery because maybe I wouldn’t be so lucky if there was a next time. Here are five lessons I have learned along the way.

1). Recovery doesn’t mean life is going to get easier it just means that you now handle it differently and you have more reasons to believe it is worth it. Oh and you actually enjoy it! I went from a life of being sick filled with only work and obsessing about food and weight (working out/ binging and purging/starving) to having a family of my own–a husband and two daughters–friends, and a closer relationship with my family. These connections that I avoided while sick, out of fear of being discovered combined with my innate feeling that I didn’t belong, now make me feel whole. Now, that little voice of anorexia is so easily knocked out by anything positive in my life—my husband’s lips against mine, by making a difference, by my ability to think clearly, by my two baby girls. Too many things are more important than ED. ED was my world before recovery-the only all-important thing in my life. Now, on a scale of importance ED is like a distant cousin five times removed—you get the point—not even a thought.

2). Time really does make it better. Recovery seems to be a waiting game with time being key—for someone with no patience like me that proved to be hard at times. I remember hearing this and thinking no way I’ll always struggle, but it really has dissipated more and more with each passing year.

A large part of this reason is because I am constantly learning new things and evolving as a human being. With ED you are so set in your eating rituals and routines that everything stays the same—you as a person can’t change. When you aren’t focused so much on ED you can live and experience which helps hush the ED voice. Through these experiences I realized how amazing my body could be and that made me reevaluate my recovery up till that point making it even stronger. My pregnancies and breast-feeding are an example of this. My babies needed nutrients for them to thrive in and out of utero, which made me look at what I was eating and strive for more variety—thus making my recovery even stronger.

Basically ED will go from center stage to a backup singer to a small part of the technical crew and then to the back row in the audience. This combination of time and non-ED experiences makes me believe one day ED will be completely eliminated—I can tell I am getting there.

3). There is a gray area and it’s a much better place than black and white. I have a personality where I am either all or nothing. I was the girl that had to get straight A’s in school, nothing in-between, or I’d be an automatic failure in my mind. I was the girl that had to be the first one at work and the last one to leave and never took a vacation. I was the girl either binging (then purging) on every food possible or starving myself. I had an all or nothing mentality and if I was going to do something–it had to be the best or to the extreme.

Since finding recovery I have found this gray area called moderation and it’s actually pretty great. I find myself sometimes just doing things because I enjoy them (can you believe it?) not to be the best or with a purpose. I now don’t have to earn my leisure. I can watch a movie because I feel like it and deserve to relax not as a reward system. I don’t have rules that I need to follow, for instance, I don’t feel guilty if I don’t workout every day. I also don’t have fear foods, and allow myself to have anything I am in the mood for but not in excess. Moderation is a good and healthy place to be.

4). Everyone isn’t going to like you, but that’s okay. Trying to get everyone to like you is an arduous task—and you will never succeed because newsflash: not everyone is going to! You can also lose yourself trying to please those around you. For a still recovering people pleaser/perfectionist this was a tough pill to swallow. But what I have come to realize is that “haters gonna hate” and it’s not a reflection on you. Bottom line: People have their own issues that make them hate people for different reasons whether they are big green eyed monsters, need attention, or simply put they can—there are so many reasons why people hate, the list can go on and on. It’s not even worth thinking about!

Be kind to everyone and if people don’t accept you still then it is their loss. I struggle with this because I am very sensitive by nature. There are people in this world who are energy vampires and I have learned through recovery that you are most definitely better off without them sucking your blood like the leaches they are anyway.

5). It’s okay to not be okay. In fact, it’s more than okay to say, “I am not okay today. I am not perfect and there is no point pretending to be. The smile on my face is as fake as Kylie Jenner’s admittedly-injection-filled-pout.” Sadness is not a weakness, admitting you are feeling down and trying to make it better is actually brave. Hiding it is actually the cowardly and easy thing to do. If you hold in all your sadness and emotion that’s when we turn to destructive ways of coping and numbing like ED. It’s okay too, to not have an exact reason for why you are feeling off. With mental illness you don’t need a reason.

I find on down days I talk to those closest to me instead of pushing them away. I tell them I am feeling off. Sometimes saying these feelings out loud is a way to admit to yourself what is going on and is also a reminder that you are not alone and people care about you. I then give myself time to write or sweat instead of avoiding those feelings and holding onto them. Bottom line: no one is perfect and life gets better once you embrace that.

So here I am, five years later typing away while my three-month-old daughter is smiling, sleeping soundly in her sleep-sack-burrito contraption in her bassinet. My almost two year old is in view through her monitor, little tushie up in the air, a sea of Wubbanub’s surrounding her. My husband is to my other side watching Stranger Things on his ipad and I am writing while simultaneously breathing in a sigh of relief. With ED, I was so alone, so sad, so defeated, deeply hurting– now I have so much love in my life I feel relief. I am so happy where I am right now—they are my strength and I am a big part of their strength. This life is where I always want to remain and I can only have it in recovery. Five years recovery strong, here is to never looking back…

 

My Daughter The WWE Wrestler

When I was a little girl, I used to cuddle up with my dad on Sunday night like clockwork. My curly brown hair resting on his chest, legs sprawled out on the couch, eyes locked on the television in front of us. I would get ready all day, playing with my wrestling figurines, making them attack each other—you know, normal little girl behavior. I was getting ready for Hulk Hogan to come out to Eye of the Tiger and to get my Hulkamania on! While admiring those outfits–the speedos with emphasis on washboard abs and fake tans—man, those pre-Trumpian tans. We all should have known and waved our American flags in defeat then–God Bless America.

Hands down no one can fake beat-up a person better than Hulk Hogan and his pro-wrestler pose. That was my takeaway. I’d feign interest to hang with my dad, but it was good times!

Well my daughter has a future in wrestling. I can sense it. Just the other day I was hanging in her crib with her—again, totally normal mommy-daughter behavior. We were like Snoop Dog and his gang rapping with all of our WubbaNubs in her crib until we dropped them like they were hot. And those WubbaNubs get fire hot. Anyway, when we were done throwing Wubbas, I lay down and kablam she pounced on my face like a cheetah and screamed ahhh. Maniac.

“Wow, Viv, or I should call you, Viv The Destroyer. What do you think of your wrestling alter ego?” I said tickling her tummy, until she exploded into that adorable baby giggle that makes my heart melt like a Popsicle in hot weather. One day, she will suppress an eye roll at the mention of her wrestling name. Actually, her new alter ego will probably be a moody AF hormonal teen girl. With that thought, I should take full advantage of this moment with my Destroyer–another tickle to that roly-poly tummy.

Back to her rising career, she’s Viv The Destroyer, because she wreaks destruction on every–WubbaNub, Mama, Bah bah– in her path. Toys, beware! Viv is going to push you over and say “ahhh” or “bahh” or something to claim her victory.

She is a wrestler all about body positivity too. She stands proudly in her pampers diapers, all rolls exposed, and takes on her victims in all her sumo-wrestler glory. Smash, there goes victim number one a small basketball hoop. Boom, victim number two a little car. These are the moments when you hope Doc McStuffins and Toy Story are totally wrong or these toys are going to come back filled with revenge instead of batteries and stuffing in their insides.

I hope my daughter and husband can uphold the Sunday night ritual or at least a tradition of their own where her head will be on his chest, legs sprawled out on the couch, eyes locked on the television in front of her. Or hey, maybe we will be watching her kicking more than stuffed animal tush in the ring one day. In that case, just a word of warning, watch out Bella Twins and the WWE Diva Champions my little girl is coming for you. She learned to SmackDown in diapers.

Yoo-hoo Invisible Teeth, Where are you?

Teething. Three words: Shit. It. Sucks.

“Da, da, ahhhhh,” then tears–non-stop tears out of her dark baby brown eyes.

“What’s wrong?” I say, rocking her up and down, shushing while simultaneously doing squats. It weirdly helps and as a nice bonus, is also good for my inner-thighs and booty. When that doesn’t help, I try the bottle or bah bah. She pushes it away like it’s the worst thing ever or in her eyes, naptime. Then, when all else fails, I am left with the realization— she must be teething.

The worst part about it is that it has been two months of on-and-off pain, this past week being a very on week, with no teeth in sight. I call them the imaginary teeth.

I tell my husband, “I am going to give Viv Tylenol for her imaginary teeth,” as I squirt some into her mouth. Vivienne usually plays hard-to-get with the syringe, but actually enjoys the sweet cherry flavor.

I find myself massaging her gums, letting her nibble my fingers; to make the imaginary teeth feel better. I am giving her frozen teethers on the daily hoping they are laced with magical whiskey to really make her feel better. Kidding, but I think my parents may have done that to me, which may explain a couple of things…

We are waiting for those first few teeth to come in because we are told after they come in it gets better. Plus she is almost nine months and most babies sprout their first tooth between four and seven months.

The interesting thing about imaginary teeth or not visible teeth is that there is nothing to justify the pain. Invisible pain is exactly what mental illness is. Mental illness you are hurting terribly but an outsider can’t see your pain. It’s not a broken limb and the person doesn’t look sick. It’s kind of like your soul is sprouting its first tooth, teething non-stop, but like Viv’s current gum situation, everything on the outside looks unchanged.

I think it makes people feel better when something is visible. Like, if Vivienne’s teeth started coming in, we would feel better, because it would be actual proof to why she was acting moody, cranky, waking up every two hours. Now, we can only suspect and go by her moods because there is nothing that meets the eye.

That’s the same thing with eating disorders: anorexia and bulimia. Because anorexia has a physical component people take it more seriously than bulimia while both are deadly eating disorders. This also applies to people with EDNOS (eating disorders not otherwise specified). The person can suffer from anorexia but not meet the weight criteria and therefore not be qualified for treatment. Just because they look healthy doesn’t mean there isn’t something deeper going on. I suffered with EDNOS for most of high school, but because I gained weight people thought I must be healthy, until I lost the weight. And then some.

I remember thinking this was so ironic, and it is, in a totally Alanis Morissette way. When I was making myself sick with laxatives every night and Jabba-the-Hutt fat (as I called myself at my weight peak), no one said anything about my eating, but when I was skinny, that was considered unhealthy and a cause for concern? I never really understood that. In my mind, even though I was too skinny, I wasn’t abusing laxatives so I was healthier. Either way, I wasn’t the pinnacle of health, but I digress. That’s the crazy thing about invisible pain—no one knows about it except for you.

Now Viv unfortunately doesn’t speak a lot of English yet, but I go by her moods. I know she is in pain and can’t let her suffer. Soon her teeth will come in and her pain will be gone. It’s not that easy for people with mental illness. Viv speaks her pain with tears and that’s the only way I know. If you have mental illness don’t be afraid to speak your pain. People care, will listen, and you can get better. In the meantime, all I can say is teething. Three words: Shit. It. Sucks.

Proud Of My Frump

“Why do you still order maternity swimsuits?” My husband said eyeballing me as I slipped on the new polka-dotted swimsuit I got on amazon to see if it fit. I just looked quickly down at my body and went through the checklist in my head: it fit ✓, covered my thighs ✓. Perfect, I thought, and then stripped it right off robotically. This bathing suit was a “winner winner chicken dinner,” in my book. Which brought me back to another very important decision in my life– hmm, what should we have for dinner?

“Hello, Yoo-Hoo, Earth to Dani.” The hubs said waving his hands in front of my face. Waking me up from my zombie or more like zombie chicken like trance.

“Because they are more comfortable, a little lose, more flattering.” I answered, swatting his hands away like he was a pesky bee zigzagging around my head. Plus, he was kind of acting like one.

He clearly doesn’t know my checkered history with swimsuits. At least I will now wear one in public. My worst nightmare was to actually have to go to a store and put one on in front of the mirror. Both, terrible nightmarish situations—especially for this self-proclaimed anti-shopper with a poor body image.

It used to go something like this:

Try it on. Look in the mirror: flab, cottage cheese, fat or arms, thighs and stomach respectively. Followed by feelings of sadness and failure.

It would not be legen–wait for it—dary in the words of How I Met Your Mother’s Barney Stinson or “not legendary at all.”

If you don’t get it still here is a simple equation: See-no-evil monkey emoji times twelve, as I would stare in the mirror completely horrified.

Now, I find myself in this not so legendary bathing suit situation every Thursday. My daughter takes swim lessons and obviously an eight month old can’t swim alone, meaning I have to go in with her. Though her instructor informed me she is pretty buoyant, I don’t think I should chance it just yet. So every Thursday we go to swim and I change myself then her into our bathing suits. When I walked out of the locker room our first lesson, to my surprise, I didn’t even think about the fact that I was wearing the dreaded swimsuit. And five months later, I still don’t.

Recovery is the key that unlocked all of my doors clasped tightly together by shame. Recovery has let me live, and thus experience. All of these amazing momentous things happened to me because I am in recovery. There was a trickle down effect of sorts. If I wasn’t in recovery, I couldn’t have a baby: one, because I wouldn’t have let anyone in (so unless I was The Virgin Mary herself that wouldn’t be possible) and two, because I wasn’t healthy enough to conceive. If I didn’t have a baby, I wouldn’t have really understood how amazing my body was and really appreciated it.

So yes, because I am in recovery and my body was able to give me my daughter, wearing a swimsuit has become a non-issue. I hardly think twice about how I look while playing in the pool with her. I see my daughter’s smile, hear her laugh as she “splashy splashes the water,” and that’s all that matters. In that way, thank you recovery for giving me the experiences and perspective to make a swimsuit that—just a swimsuit.

So no, I won’t be the girl rocking the tiny string bikini, thinking I look hot, but that just isn’t me or what I am about at all. Plus, I think some old fashioned modesty goes a long way. So yes, I will be the girl in the one-piece, or comfortable two-piece playing confidently with my daughter, smiling, laughing. And you know what, I don’t care what society says about my frumpy suits; I am happy and have come a long way.

Don’t Handle The Holidays Like Tickle-Me-Elmo

I gazed over at the table set-up buffet style in the kitchen examining what I was going to eat at this break-the-fast feast. There was a brown basket filled to the brim with bagels: two cinnamon raisin, four everything, the rest plain–at least that’s what I made out from my view. Cream cheese, whitefish salad, egg salad, tuna salad, all in perfect circular scoops, rested on a long plate beside the carb filled basket. There was a tray, to the right of that, filled with kugel and blintzes. Wow, so much food.

Not too long ago, it would have made me literarily shake, hands vibrating like an out of control Tickle-Me-Elmo doll, and want to plan my exit. I know I would be great at Escape the Room, because no one has perfected the escape better than me. Now, the food was actually beautiful in its arrangements, smells, and colors. How poetic, right?

“Vivie look at the pretty colors,” I said, giving my baby girl a tour around the table from my arms.

Vivienne stared and started smiling, even clapping her hands–then she tried to reach for a bagel. I hope she always has this attitude towards food. She loves it.

Yom Kippur is my favorite holiday in terms of dinner food, and no, not because it’s the one-day I get to fast without people asking questions. I could eat breakfast for dinner everyday and be happy. I can’t say that wasn’t the reason a couple of years back though…

             ***

Holidays are the worst when you have an active eating disorder. Everyone is there, analyzing what you look like and what you put in your mouth. It is neither relaxing nor fun to be around all that food, especially when people are talking about their dieting resolutions while stuffing their faces. Enraging! They’d be commenting on how all the food on the table was “fattening” before eating it, while simultaneously talking about putting on their “fat pants.” Then they’d expect me to eat all that fattening food after that. Yeah, right. Triggers anyone?

 People who really meant well would piss me off with insulting my intelligence by trying to entice me to eat. “Mmmm, Dan, you have to try these mashed potatoes; they are so delicious.” Don’t shove it in my face that you can eat it, you fool! It’s not going to make me want it more! I wanted to pat them on the back and say, “Good for you.”

I would feel uncomfortable and bad about myself with each bite everyone else took, with each bite I took, with each moment where I felt abnormal. I couldn’t go. I couldn’t handle any of it, and it was no one’s fault but my own. That’s why I would tell them I was too sick to make it or my eyes were burning, as I had corneal erosions from malnutrition at the time—anything to get out of it.

***

The holidays for me now represent recovery. In recovery I can get together with my family, loved ones, and really enjoy myself. I don’t have to worry about eating in any capacity and can catch up with my family.

However, I do think it’s important for family members to not make triggering comments that can set a loved one in recovery back. Avoid trying to get someone to eat by shoving it in their face, making comments about their size, drawing attention to their problem, demanding they eat etc.—it won’t work and will most likely be detrimental. Pick a time when you can speak to the person in private, then explain why you’re concerned. At a holiday meal, is not the time.

Anyway, the point is that the holidays, once a time I avoided, now is a time where I can embrace my FULL—being FULLy in recovery and being okay with the satisfied FULL feeling. How are you going to embrace your FULL this holiday season?